The 2021 NGO Sector Report released by the NGO Regulatory Authority (Ngora) has revealed that NGOs were tight lipped on sources of 52 percent of their funding in the year.
But Youth and Society (Yas) has said the weak compliance levels reflect the NGOs’ lack of trust and confidence in Ngora.
According to the report, about K429 billion, or 52 percent of the total funding, that 307 NGOs received came from undisclosed sources.
The 307 organisations are out of the 715 that were supposed to submit reports, bringing the compliance rate to 43 percent, up from 37 percent the previous year.
During the year under review, the submitted audited reports indicated that K412 billion was spent on initiatives meant to complement the government’s efforts.
“In their reports, a significant number of NGOs did not clearly disclose their donors or the amount received in the year, hence these were categorised as ‘other donors’.
“There is [a] need to provide clarity on the annual return form in the next report submission period so that the required information is correctly submitted by the NGOs,” the report reads.
Ngora Vice Chairperson Nina Ghambi said failure to disclose sources of funds by the NGOs smacks of money laundering.
“The sources were not expressed. We were not told where the funds are coming from; so, in this era, there is a lot of money laundering issues around.
“To avoid that, we need to know where each and every NGO is getting its resources,” Ghambi said.
She, however, said NGOs were heading in the right direction, having reached a 43 percent compliance rate.
Gender, Community Development and Social Welfare Minister Patricia Kaliati stressed the need for NGOs to be leading by example on issues of transparency and accountability.
“Three hundred and seven [NGOs] have complied while the rest of the NGOs have not complied, which is very bad.
“We are looking forward to the time they will do that,” she said.
The minister further called for coordination at district level so that council leaders are aware of the projects being implemented to avoid duplication of development projects.
Commenting on the issue of NGOs’ compliance levels, Yas Director Charles Kajoloweka argued that the recent handling of the NGO Amendment Act was an indication of how the authority has been “misguided by narrow political interests”.
“Naturally, no one would like to cooperate with instruments of repression. It is crucial for the NGO Authority to invest in building bridges with the NGO sector other than taking a confrontational and manipulative approach,” he said.
He added that NGOs do not trust the authority and that, as such, Ngora must open dialogue with the sector instead of engaging in smear campaigns, threats and intimidation.
“Contrary to the false and politically-charged narratives by the authority, which is motivated to discredit the integrity of NGOs, thereby undermining public confidence in them, no one in the NGO sector is against accountability,” he said.
According to Ngora, from next year, it would be impossible for an organisation to submit a report to the authority using online platforms if the NGO does not disclose the source of income, which would be translated to non-compliance.
The NGO Act gives power to the Ngora Board to order the registrar to cancel, or suspend, the registration of an NGO if the NGO refuses to comply with the provision of the Act.
According to Ngora, at the end of each financial year, all registered NGOs are mandated to submit to the regulator audited financial statements, annual reports outlining activities undertaken in that year, and annual returns summarising the NGOs administrative information.
Mathews Kasanda is a journalist who holds a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism from University of Malawi (The Polytechnic).
In 2015, Media Institute of Southern Africa awarded him the Best Print Media Education Journalist of the Year accolade.
He joined Times Group Newsroom in September 2019.